industry news

UK Defence Secretary to announce £2.5bn submarine investment

14 May

UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson is expected to officially reveal a new £2.5bn investment in support of the country’s nuclear submarine programme.

Williamson is set to announce that the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has signed a £1.5bn contract with BAE Systems for the construction of the Royal Navy’s seventh Astute-class submarine, Agincourt, as part of the initiative, reported The Herald.

As quoted by BBC News, Williamson will say: “This multi-billion-pound investment in our nuclear submarines shows our unwavering commitment to keeping the UK safe and secure from intensifying threats.

“Agincourt will complete the Royal Navy’s seven-strong fleet of hunter-killer attack subs, the most powerful to ever enter British service, whilst our nuclear deterrent is the ultimate defence against the most extreme dangers we could possibly face.”

He will also add: “Today’s news supports 8,000 BAE Systems’ submarine jobs, as well as thousands more in the supply chain, protecting prosperity and providing opportunity right across the country.”

Additional contracts featuring a combined worth of £960m are also slated to be announced for the second phase of development of a fleet of four nuclear-armed, Dreadnought-class submarines for the Royal Navy.

The Dreadnought-class submarines are intended to replace the navy’s four current Vanguard-class nuclear submarines, which are equipped with the Trident weapons system.

Work under the contracts will be carried out over the next year and the new vessels are expected to be deployed with the navy until the 2030s. In addition, Williamson is scheduled to open a new £100m Central Yard Facility building in the Cumbria manufacturing site, which will be used to carry out the outfitting and testing of each section of the new vessels.

USAF’s F-22 fighters intercept Russian TU-95 bombers in Alaska

14 May

Two of the US Air Force’s F-22 Raptor stealth tactical fighter aircraft have reportedly intercepted two Russian TU-95 ‘Bear’ bombers in international airspace off the coast of Alaska.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) was quoted by CNN as saying that the two long-range bombers from Russia flew into the Air Defense Identification Zone, which is located approximately 200 miles off the west coast of Alaska.

In a statement, NORAD and United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) spokesman Canadian Army major Andrew Hennessy said: “At approximately 10am (Eastern time), two Alaskan-based NORAD F-22 fighters, intercepted and visually identified two Russian TU-95 ‘Bear’ long-range bomber aircraft flying in the Air Defense Identification Zone around the western coast of Alaska, north of the Aleutian Islands.”

However, the Russian Defense Ministry officials said that the two bombers were escorted by the Lockheed Martin-developed F-22 jets in international airspace for 40 minutes, reported RIA Novosti. Meanwhile, Hennessy added that the two USAF aircraft intercepted and monitored the Russian bombers until the aircraft left the identification zone, reported Time.

On 3 May last year, the USAF F-22 jets intercepted two Russian TU-95 Bear bombers and SU-35 fighter jet during a similar incident that took place at Point Hope, Alaska. In December, two US F-33 stealth fighters fired warning flares after identifying Russian Su-25 jets in an agreed deconfliction area in Syrian airspace.

Australia’s 2018–19 budget to provide $36.4bn for defence

11 May

The Australian Government’s 2018-19 Budget has allocated $36.4bn to defence and $160.7bn over the forward estimates system. The defence budget aims to ensure national and economic security, support its ongoing commitments to operations around the world, as well as create several new job opportunities in the country.

Funding will also continue to deliver the capability plans set out in the 2016 defence white paper through the $200bn defence integrated investment programme. Over the next decade, the integrated investment programme will focus on developing a more capable defence force.

To achieve this, the government intends to invest in the acquisition of a fleet of 211 Combat Reconnaissance Vehicles that would be deployed to protect troops. Vehicles will be manufactured and delivered domestically by local workers using Australian steel. In addition, the government will invest approximately $90bn to support the Royal Australian Navy’s continuous shipbuilding programme.

The government will also support the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) fifth-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme, as well as the procurement of EA-18G Growlers and P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft.

Over the past year, the government has committed approximately $19.7bn on new capabilities to strengthen the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

The government also continues to invest in modernising and expanding the country’s defence estate, which comprises several bases, facilities and other sites throughout the nation, particularly in regional communities.

DARPA enters final phase of Gremlin programme

11 May

DARPA is one step closer to demonstrating the airborne launch and recovery of multiple unmanned aerial systems (UASs) as it enters the final phase of its Gremlin programme.

The programme’s goal is to develop technology that can recover multiple low-cost, reusable UASs—known as gremlins—from the air.

A recent flight test at Yuma Proving Ground showed a successful, safe separation and captive flight tests of the hard dock and recovery system.

“Early flight tests have given us confidence we can meet our objective to recover four gremlins in 30 minutes,” said DARPA Tactical Technology Office programme manager Scott Wierzbanowski.

The life expectancy of gremlins, estimated to be around 20 uses, could offer significant savings by reducing payload and airframe costs. It could also lower mission and maintenance costs in comparison to conventional platforms, which are designed to operate for decades.

Once the UASs have completed their mission, they will be retrieved by a C-130 transport aircraft so that ground crews can prepare them for redeployment within 24 hours. While the C-130 is being used during the demonstrations for the Gremlins program, Wierzbanowski says the services could easily modify the system for another transport aircraft or other major weapons system.

“We are exploring opportunities with several transition partners and are not committed to a single organisation. Interest is strong with both the roll-on/roll-off capability of the Gremlins system—as it does not require any permanent aircraft modification—and a wing-mounted system to provide greater flexibility to a wider range of aircraft,” said Wierzbanowski.

This adaptability also applies to the gremlins themselves, which can incorporate different types of technology depending on the mission, such as several types of sensors up to a weight of 150 pounds.

DARPA recently awarded a contract to a Dynetics-led team to perform the Phase 3 demonstration. The DARPA programme team is currently exploring the possibility of working with additional integration partners to demonstrate different sensor packages prior to programme completion in 2019.

US Army invests in AI technology to create smarter robots

11 May

The US Army has invested $30m to leverage big data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to develop smarter robots that would replace soldiers for specialist tasks. The investment will be used to build unmanned ground and aerial vehicles such as future vertical lift and the next-generation combat vehicle.

US Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) commander major general Cedric T Wins said: “It’s time for robots to replace soldiers for certain specialised tasks involving dull, dirty or dangerous work and to reduce their cognitive load.”

In addition, the army has taken two significant steps to increase the use of advanced robotics, added Wins.

Firstly, Army Materiel Command unit RDECOM will fall under Army Futures Command (AFC), which will enlist the talent and resources of approximately 10,000 RDECOM engineers and scientists, along with its network of partnerships throughout industry and academia.

Under the second step, the army command has entered the US Department of Defense’s (DoD) algorithmic warfare cross-functional team, which has been code-named Project Maven.

Win added: “To maximise big data, you need a very, very, very robust high-performance computing capability, focused on being able to deal with the volume of information, harness the speed by which data can be generated; and be able to deal with the diversity of data to make it meaningful and informative for the user. And then having the ability to trust the information and verify and validate that data and then make it useful.”

Project Maven has been designed to be completed in two phases. Phase I of the project involves research on developing computer decision algorithms that would help evaluate full-motion video input.

Phase II of Project Maven is focused on improvements from the first phase by enhancing the scope, scale, and speed of the process in order to assess data more quickly and effectively.

In addition, the US Army intends to use AI, machine learning and big-data analytics to transform the mission command during combat.

Exercise Balikatan 2018 commences in Luzon, Philippines

10 May

The 34th annual Balikatan 2018 US-Philippine multilateral military exercise has commenced on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. Balikatan, meaning ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ or ‘sharing the load together’, focuses on a wide range of missions such as mutual defence, counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Jointly hosted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the US Pacific Command, the exercise has been designed to strengthen the partnership and commitment to the mutual defence treaty between the two nations.

Balikatan aims to improve regional military cooperation, interoperability, and the ability of the participating nations to respond effectively to disasters or humanitarian crises.

US Army units participating in the exercise include 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Sustainment Brigade, 330th Medical Brigade, 500th Military Intelligence Brigade, and 413th Contracting Support Brigade.

25th Infantry Division commander major general Ronald Clark said: “Regional exercises like Balikatan are an opportunity to build our combined capabilities and share best practices across the full range of military operations.

“If asked to work together to meet real-world contingencies, the seeds of success will have been planted by routinely training together in venues like this.”

This year, the event will include a command post exercise, a humanitarian and disaster relief programme, and several other military training activities. Balikatan 2018 will also see the participation of the Australian Defense Force (ADF) and the Japan Self-Defense Force.

Participating for the fifth time, the ADF has deployed approximately 60 personnel, a Royal Australian Air Force P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft and an army contingent to be a part of the exercise. More than 3,000 US military forces are participating in Balikatan.

USAF begins Phase II of Light Attack Experiment in New Mexico

9 May

The US Air Force (USAF) has commenced the second phase of the Light Attack Experiment at its Holloman Air Force Base (AFB) in New Mexico, US.

The three-month, live-fly experiment will see the USAF pilots fly the Sierra Nevada / Embraer A-29 Super Tucano and the Textron Aviation AT-6B Wolverine aircraft.

Additional information about aircraft capabilities, along with partner nation interoperability, will be collected during flights before carrying out a potential acquisition of the light attack jets.

The second phase of the Light Attack Experiment involves aircrew, which includes fighter, attack or special operations pilots, as well as test pilots and flight engineers from the USAF, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve.

The experimentation will include flight scenarios that will comprise both day and night missions in air interdiction, close air support, armed overwatch, and combat search-and-rescue. Maintenance observers will focus on flightline and in-shop maintenance in order to inform sustainment and product support requirements.

USAF Acquisition Office of the Assistant Secretary military deputy lieutenant general Arnie Bunch said: “This second phase of experimentation is about informing the rapid procurement process as we move closer to investing in light attack.

“If we can get light attack aircraft operating in permissive combat environments, we can alleviate the demand on our fourth and fifth generation aircraft, so they can be training for the high-end fight they were made for.”

The Phase II experiment is part of a larger USAF programme to explore cost-effective attack platform options under the Light Attack Experimentation Campaign led by the Air Force Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation Office at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, US.

In August, the USAF conducted the Phase I of the Light Attack Experiment at the Holloman AFB using four light attack aircraft models.

Germany requests $1.40bn sale of C-130J-30 and KC-130J jets from US

8 May

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) has notified Congress of a possible foreign military sale (FMS) of C-130J-30 and KC-130J aircraft to Germany.

With an estimated cost of $1.40bn, the proposed sale has been requested by the Government of Germany with an aim to improve the airlift, air refuelling and airdrop capabilities of the German Air Force. The missions will be carried out as part of a French-German allied squadron based in Evreux, France.

Under the possible deal, Germany has requested the procurement of three C-130J-30 military transport jet, each installed with four Rolls Royce AE-2100D turboprop engines, and three KC-130J multi-role tanker aircraft with four Rolls Royce AE-2100D turboprop engines installed.

The probable FMS will also cover the sale of four Rolls Royce AE 2100D turboprop engines to be delivered as spares, eight Link-16 Multifunctional Information Distribution Systems (MIDS) Terminals, eight AN/ALE 47 Electronic Countermeasure Dispensers, eight AN/AAR-47A(V)2 Missile Warning Systems, eight AN/ALR-56M Radar Warning Receivers, and eight MX-20 Electro-Optical / Infrared Imaging Systems.

Approved by the US State Department, the possible sale will include the delivery of an AN/APX-114/119 Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) Mode 5, a Joint Mission Planning System (JMPS), secure communications, precision navigation and cryptographic equipment, as well as night vision devices.

The probable deal also includes engineering, technical and logistics support services for the US Government and contractor, in addition to other related elements of logistical and programme support.

Once delivered, the C-130J aircraft will help provide crucial air refuelling capability to the German and French fighter and light transport aircraft, as well as helicopters. The new capabilities will help enhance interoperability among the airforces of Germany, France, and the US. Lockheed Martin, based in Fort Worth, Texas, will serve as the potential principal contractor for the proposed deal.